HC Deb 13 April 1858 vol 149 cc1019-41

rose to move "That the receipt of any species of reward by a Member, in consideration of the exercise of his influence in that capacity, is calculated to lower the dignity and authority of this House, and is a high breach of the Privilege of Parliament." The hon. Member said he had no wish to conceal the fact that his Motion was unquestionably founded on certain circumstances which had recently formed the subject of investigation before a Select Committee of the House, and upon the evidence adduced in the course of that inquiry. It was not his intention to impugn in any way the decision of the Committee in that case; but he thought, nevertheless, that something should be done to vindicate the character of the House. To offer money or other advantages to a Member for promoting any matter depending in Parliament was by a Resolution of 1695 a high crime and misdemeanour. A whole series of decisions confirmed that general proposition; and yet, according to the evidence taken before the Butt Committee, if that evidence were true—and it must be true, for it was the evidence of Mr. Butt himself— it had become the duty of the House to take some step to uphold the principle it had laid down, and to prevent the recurrence of what had taken place in that case. According to that evidence it seemed to be considered that Members were at liberty, by means of Parliamentary Motions, to endeavour to bring about an event upon which might turn a valuable consideration for themselves. If such a notion were to be acted upon, there would be an end to the independence of Parliament, nor would any Member willing to receive a reward find it difficult to evade the terms of the law. To allow the matter to remain where the recent Committee had left it would be a course most injurious to the public interests. It would then be in the power of a Minister at any time to crush an obnoxious Member by charging him with corrupt conduct upon some former occasion. It was for the interest of all parties that it should be clearly laid down what should and what should not be done. The late President of the Board of Control told the Butt Committee that it was believed that hon. Gentlemen advocated Indian claims for a consideration. That ought of itself to put the House on its guard. Members might be deterred in future from doing what was right by a fear of being accused of acting for a reward;—for instance, the grievances of the Colonies might in this way be prevented from being brought before Parliament. He was afraid, also, that the local Government of India would be lowered in the estimation of the people if it were believed that for a reward persons might be retained in the British Parliament to advocate the claims of the Native Princes and to endeavour to induce Parliament to overrule the decisions of the constituted authorities. Far better lock the doors of Parliament at once than allow it to be said that justice was sold to the highest bidder. He was a Reformer, but he wanted to see a reform in as well as a reform of Parliament. Internal corruption was fatal to the existence of public bodies, and if the conduct against which his Resolution was aimed should be exhibited to any considerable extent, or without calling forth the indignation of that House, fare- well to our free institutions. How could they punish electors for selling their votes when they themselves were open to the charge of receiving bribes for services rendered in their capacity as Members of Parliament? It would be recollected that in the Life of Beranger it was stated that his friend Manuel died poor, for that after he became a deputy he refused all fees as a barrister, under the notion that a deputy could not be a paid advocate without the risk of raising suspicion. That House was part of all free communities, and if it showed by its example that such things could occur, all minor communities, such as boards of guardians and petty sessions, would be found to act in a similar manner. Nay, more, the debates of this House were read in America, Belgium, Sardinia, and wherever free representative assemblies existed or were likely to exist, and a precedent set by that House would be considered as a rule by the rest of the world. The Members of that House represented, after all, but a small part of the population, and there would be great outcry for a large change in the constitution of the House, if they did not do their duty in the position they held. In making the Motion he was not actuated by an affectation of purity. So far from that, he was ready to say that he was not sure whether, if tempted, he would not give way himself; but he wished to make it difficult to himself and others to give way. He had no ill-feeling towards the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butt), who might possibly in the course he took have mistaken the rules of the House in these matters; but as a Member of Parliament he had thought it his duty to bring forward the Motion with which he now concluded.


seconded the Resolution.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That the receipt of any species of reward by a Member, in consideration of the exercise of his influence in that capacity, is calculated to lower the dignity and authority of this House, and is a high breach of the Privilege of Parliament.


said, that he was exceedingly reluctant to offer himself to the notice of the House on a subject of such great importance, and he had hoped that some of those hon. Members who were in the habit of taking the lead in the proceedings of the House would have given the House the benefit of their opinions on the present occasion. No one felt more strongly than himself how disagreeable it was to speak on a subject apparently having a personal aspect attaching to it; but they were not sent to the House to consider what was agreeable or disagreeable before they proceeded to discuss it; and he was one who felt that the less agreeable the subject the more it was their duty to express their views, when they felt strongly with regard to it. The subject brought forward was one of manifest importance. Whether it were true that such scandals as his hon. Friend had referred to really did take place he would not venture to say; but there was a general belief on the part of the public that those practices did take place, and that opinion had received a colour in consequence of the disclosures made before the Committee referred to. It was the duty, then, of the House to see if it were not possible to devise some plan by which these practices, if they existed, might be put an end to, and their constituents prevented from entertaining the shadow of suspicion, that those they had sent to represent them could be guilty of conduct of flagrant scandal. He did not think that his hon. Friend had brought forward his Motion in any way calculated to raise the real issue; for he had not ever heard it imputed to any hon. Member belonging to the legal profession that he accepted money on the promise of giving his services in the House in return. What was imputed was,that Members of the legal profession, having seats in the House, were retained; but by fees of large magnitude in the ordinary manner for business professing to be about to come into the courts of law, and that afterwards certain meetings or consultations took place, when somebody suggested that the matter could not be satisfactorily worked in a court of law, and that an appeal should be made to Parliament. An application was then made to one of the learned Members, who had been retained, to take the matter up. In this way hon. Gentlemen who had received those fees were appealed to take up in Parliament matters on which they were professionally engaged. That was the imputation he had heard constantly made, and the imputation was that money had been indirectly, if not directly, received by persons circumstanced as he had described. That was a practice to which the House was bound to see if a stop could not be put. He was not going to enter at large on the matter, having risen at the moment he did because he perceived that the question was about to be disposed of. He never scrupled in private to criticize these sup- posed proceedings in what he conceived proper terms, and he should be ashamed of himself if he did not on a proper occasion similarly criticize them in public. He would not presume to say what should be done, but he should like to see something done which would bring the House to something like the condition in which it was when he first had the honour of a seat in it. In those days, no Member felt himself at liberty to interfere in any matter in respect to which he had a personal interest. As a proof of this, he would state that it happened to himself to be told on one occasion that he could not relieve the Members of his county to whom belonged the trouble of passing through the House of Commons an unopposed Enclosure Bill, simply because he had a field in the parish in which was the land proposed to be enclosed. He desired very much by some means, either by Resolution or by the general understanding of the House, that in future hon. Members should be relieved from such disgraceful imputations as were cast on the whole House if any one were supposed to be guilty of the practices described. They all witnessed occasionally in the courts of law one of the learned Judges declaring that he could not take part in a certain trial, because he had been concerned in the case as counsel. If that was a valid reason for a learned Judge declining to undertake his duty in his court, how much more improper was it for a person entrusted with the high privileges and important duties of a Member of Parliament, to use those privileges for the advocacy in that House of private interests, and in return for pecuniary remuneration. He made these observations without intending any personal reference, for he had long desired to see this important question raised. He was not a Member of the legal profession; but he desired to see both that profession and the House of Commons stand well in public estimation; and this neither could do, unless it showed the most earnest desire to purge itself from even the possible imputations of conniving at acts which were disgraceful alike to individuals and to the House to which they belonged.


Like my noble Friend behind me, I have been long a Member of this House, the honour and integrity of which are very dear to me, and I need hardly say that anything which would tend to sustain its purity would receive my most anxions consideration and support. I do not think it at all necessary to refer to the case of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt) in discussing the Resolution proposed by the hon. Baronet opposite. That hon. and learned Member, grave accusations being preferred against him, challenged inquiry. The House referred the question at issue to a Committee, which was thought to be fairly constituted. I had the honour to preside over that Committee, and I think I may fairly say that no question ever received from any body of men more careful, more anxious, and, as I believe, more impartial consideration. The inquiries of that Committee ended in the acquittal of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is fully entitled to the full effect of the report of that Committee, and it would be unworthy of any Member after their decision to refer to this subject in a manner adverse to him. With all submission, however, I do not think that any new Resolution on this subject is requisite. At the very earliest period of Parliamentary government after the Revolution, a Resolution was passed (in 1695)—the same to which the hon. Baronet has already referred—a Resolution express in its terms, plain in its language, and invariably enforced when facts bore out an accusation of this nature. It would be extremely difficult to carry a decision of this House further than it is carried by that Resolution. The fact, Is the infringement of the rule proved or not? —is always a question of evidence. I quite agree with my noble Friend behind me (Lord Hotham) that cases will arise which run very closely to a violation of the rule. But it is impossible, without losing to a most serious extent the learning of this House, to exclude gentlemen of the bar who are in great practice. Questions will arise in courts of law which ultimately may become subjects of discussion in this House; and the real test of good faith, as it has always appeared to me, is the publicity of the transaction. If there be complete publicity, and if the quantum of the fee given be not above that which the station of the advocate requires, I think there is no danger in permitting gentlemen of the long robe, in great practice in the courts, to take part in discussions here upon matters respecting which they may be professionally consulted out of doors. Now, my noble Friend refers to the early practice in this House, when he and I first became Members of it, and has alluded to that practice as regards colonial questions. And what are the facts? I will mention but one most distinguished Member before my time—I mean Mr. Burke; but besides him the House will remember that Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. Huskisson, and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) have been the paid advocates of different colonies. In those cases the very publicity of the payments made, did, to a certain extent, when such Members advocated the cause of the particular colony for which they were concerned, diminish pro tanto the value of their opinions: and that very publicity counteracted, in my opinion, all the evil effects which might have arisen from their having received pecuniary rewards. Now, take the words of the hon. Baronet's Resolution as they stand. I cannot say that at different periods, and even very recently, distinguished Members of this House have not received for their labours here—their most effective labours—pecuniary rewards. But in such instances, as I have observed, publicity has prevailed. Even very recently, distinguished Members of this House have, on account of the influence exercised by them in Parliament (they being in circumstances which may have rendered pecuniary reward more acceptable or necessary than any other), received remuneration in money for their services. I see the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) in his place. He will remember the rewards given to Mr. Grattan for his services in Parliament. I think Mr. Grattan received £50,000, with which sum an estate was purchased, which is still enjoyed by his descendants, and which remains part of the inheritance awarded by a grateful country in recognition of the merits of that distinguished individual. I will not particularize similar instances in more modern times; but to say that there shall be no pecuniary reward for great and eminent services rendered in Parliament, which I think would be the doctrine established by this Resolution, would be carrying the theory of extreme purity further than would be desirable or necessary. In the case of any gross violation of the rule of Parliament, and of any charge of corruption impeaching the conduct of a member of this House, I think no new Resolution would be required for his condemnation. From the earliest period such corruption has been branded as rendering a Member unworthy to continue his seat in this House. Even a person who had filled the office which you, Sir, now so worthily occupy, was expelled on account of the receipt of 1,000 guineas for services rendered by him in his place in Parliament after he had vacated the chair. Again, a gentleman who filled the office of Chairman of the Committee, received, I think, a reward of only 20 guineas, whereupon, a corrupt motive having been proved to the satisfaction of the House, he was also expelled. I am quite sure that even the recent investigation, terminating as it did in the complete acquittal of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt), marks the jealousy of this House in respect of any conduct capable of being misconstrued, as being actuated by corrupt motives. The very circumstances of such an investigation having been made is a warning, as I think, of a most sufficient character. I certainly entertain an apprehension that any new Resolution of this kind might receive some new construction. The old practice, the old Resolution, and the construction put upon it seem to me to afford to the House an adequate protection against corruption on the part of its Members. I am not surprised that such a proposition as this should be made by the hon. Baronet, actuated, I am sure, by the purest motives; but I venture to suggest to him that the discussion which will no doubt take place on this subject, backed by the opinion of Members of higher authority than I can pretend to, will have the effect of a solemn warning for the future to all members of the long robe, more especially to those who receive large fees for services rendered out of doors, and who afterwards take part in discussions on the same subject within these walls. Such a warning, I think, will be amply sufficient, and I doubt extremely, the policy of adopting any new Resolution on the subject.


thought that the cases referred to by the right hon. Baronet were scarcely applicable to the question before the House. In Grattan's case, for example, the money voted to him was for eminent public services, and was voted from the public purse. Other instances there had been in more modern times to which reference might be made, but the rewards there had usually been the result of public subscriptions, openly carried on by those who had benefited by the great exertions of some individual for the public cause. Now, such cases differed entirely from those which formed the subject of the hon. Baronet's Resolution; and, therefore, scarcely touched the question which the House now had to discuss. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), that this Motion did not, in the slightest degree, affect his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Youghal. He (Mr. FitzGerald) looked upon the Resolutions of the Committee as the complete and perfect acquittal of his hon. and learned Friend; and he would add that, in his opinion, the evidence of the principal witnesses examined in support of the charge was of such a character that no Committee could have acted upon it with safety. With reference to the question immediately before the House, he concurred in every word which had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Hotham). At the same time, as a member of the long robe, he rose to defend that profession from the imputations which had, perhaps, to too great an extent, been fastened upon it. Among the instances of expulsions from the House, for a breach of what was an inherent rule of the House, he could not call to mind a single case in which a member of the long robe had been thus expelled. There were, however, unfortunately, upon the records of Parliament, instances in which other Members had been punished with extreme severity, because they had infringed the fundamental rule, that no one should take a reward of any kind for his services in Parliament. This rule stood recorded in no written Resolution; it was part of the law of Parliament; and, if it was not so, then the House of Commons would cease to hold the position it did in public estimation. If Members were allowed to take rewards, one could not fail to see that the respect which Parliament ought to possess would be enjoyed no longer, that all confidence in its integrity would be destroyed, and that, in the end, the constitution would be subverted. Now, the Resolution of 1695, which had been adverted to by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny), did not, as far as he could see, touch the evil upon which the House was called upon to express its opinion. The Resolution of 1695 was to the effect that "the offer of any money, or other advantage, to any Member of Parliament, for the forwarding of any matter whatsoever depending or to be transacted in Parliament, was a high crime and misdemeanour, and tended to the subversion of the English constitution." It was not, therefore, against the person accepting, but the person offering the bribe, that the Resolution was directed, and that was so because Members of Parliament had, over and over again, been expelled the House, for receiving rewards for their services, in their capacity as legislators; and the rules of Parliament, upon that particular point, had thus been placed beyond all doubt. Well, but what, let him ask, had led to the adoption of the Resolution of 1695? It was the occurrence, in the previous year, of the case of Sir John Trevor, Speaker and Master of the Rolls, who had been expelled the House of Commons because he had received a gratuity of 1,000 guineas from the city of London, after the passing of the Orphans' Bill; and of the case of Mr. Hungerford, the Member for Scarborough, who had accepted twenty guineas for his pains and services as Chairman of the Committee upon the same Bill. But those were not the only precedents to which he could refer. In 1667, Mr. Ashburnham had been expelled the House, because he had received a gratuity of £500, for promoting the business of the French merchants; and, upon that occasion, a Resolution had been passed to the effect that he had thereby committed an offence to the dishonour of the House, and was therefore discharged from service as one of its Members. It was clear, therefore, that the punishment of Members who had so far forgotten the position which they held as to accept rewards in their capacity as legislators depended upon no written laws, but was based upon well-established Parliamentary practice; and he could not help thinking that to allow that old practice of Parliament to stand was a course which it was preferable to take, to attempting to weaken it by framing any new Resolutions upon the subject. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had adverted to the circumstance that many distinguished Members of the House of Commons, and among them no less eminent personages than Mr. Burke and Sir James Mackintosh, had received rewards I for the services which they had from time to time rendered to the interest of some of our colonists by advocating their cause in. Parliament. Now be (Mr. FitzGerald), for one, did not hesitate to Condemn such conduct, notwithstanding the high position of the men who were implicated in those transactions. Possibly it might have been tolerated because the Colonies were not represented in that House, and Members who undertook laborious duties might be per- mitted to receive pecuniary rewards. But was not the practice open to great objections? A Member of that House did not come there so much the representative of a particular constituency, as one of the representatives of the empire, whoso duty it was, laying aside all minor considerations, to advise the House of Commons to the best of his skill and judgment upon all questions connected with the interests of the empire at large. But how, he would ask, could a Member discharge that duty efficiently if it were lawful for him to place himself in a position in which interest and duty must be found to conflict? If he were the advocate for a colony, he must support its interests by his voice and vote, and if the evil was lessened, it was only because the House knew he was a paid advocate. Such a state of things must derogate from the character of a Member of Parliament, and could only be tolerated as a necessary evil. The House of Commons itself had always regarded with the utmost jealousy the conduct of its Members in that respect, and its Journals contained more than one instance in which, after a division upon a certain measure had been taken, the name of some Member had been struck off the list because it had been found that he had had a pecuniary interest in the matter, which was held to disqualify him from voting. He referred to these rules to show that the House had amply provided against its Members advocating questions, either as paid agents or when they had their own interests to advance. He would again press on the hon. Baronet that, as the law of Parliament now stood, there was no necessity for a new Resolution. Still he thought that the discussion of this question could not fail to be of great advantage. He was sorry to hear what the noble Lard (Lord Hotham) stated to be the case. [Lord HOTHAM: Believed to be the case.] Well, believed to be the case, that distinguished legal Members of Parliament received large fees, and by management, the questions on which they were retained were thrust into Parliament and those Members advocated those questions there. If there were such cases, he believed that they were rare and exceptional, and he could say on behalf of his profession, which was bound by no law or Act of Parliament, but only by a code created by itself, and which had maintained its high character in all times, that these instances, if they did exist, were of the rarest. He found in the records of Par- liament in 1666, a rule to the effect, that such Members as were of the long robe should not be of counsel on any side on any Bill in the Lords' House. On all the grounds he had stated, if he thought it necessary for the House to come to any Resolution on this subject, he would have supported that of the hon. Baronet; but, believing that it was not necessary, he would urge on the hon. Baronet not to press it.


said, that although he had seconded the Motion, he felt assured that any Resolution upon the subject to which the House of Commons might give its assent would only tend to impair that security against the occurrence of those breaches of privilege complained of which the House at present possessed. The question had assumed greater importance in consequence of the observation of the noble Lord (Lord Hotham,) following what had been said by a Member of the recent Committee of Inquiry with regard to a genera belief that Members of that House received pecuniary reward for the advocacy of Indian claims. If such a belief existed, great advantage would be derived from this discussion. As far as the members of the legal profession were concerned, that code of honour to which his right hon. and learned Friend had just alluded was, he thought, a sufficient guarantee that they would not be found to resort to practices which all parties must concur in condemning. There could be no difficulty in distinguishing between a colourable fee and the real just reward for bona fide legal services. The noble Lord (Lord Hotham) said, that gentlemen of the long robe were open to these temptations. [Lord HOTHAM: Some of them.] He knew that in some instances temptations had been offered to eminent Members of that House who were also members of the profession to which he belonged, but these offers had always been rejected. He thought, as the hon. Member for Tavistock had achieved all he could desire by the discussion which he had raised, he would be satisfied with the result, and would withdraw the Resolution. If the hon. Member thought fit to press it, he (Mr. Mellor) should feel bound to support it, as the House could not too often record its opinion upon this important point.


said, he could not concur in the request which had been made to the hon. Baronet for the withdrawal of the Resolution. He thought it most desirable that the sense of the House should be expressed on this subject in plain language, which could be understood not only here, but in distant territories. In the few words he was about to say, it was not his wish to make any observations that might be disagreeable to the hon. and learned Member for Youghal, for he readily accepted the verdict of the Committee as a complete acquittal of that gentleman; but still he knew that great mischiefs had resulted from a practice that had largely prevailed of legal gentlemen taking large fees from persons having grievances to complain of against the Government of India, and then advocating, or professing to advocate, those claims in that House. Whether that advocacy was stimulated by the fees received it was impossible to say, but undoubtedly some who had received large fees as barristers had appeared as advocates of the same cause in that House. It was most important that the Natives of India should believe in the purity of that House, and when they came to this country they could never be brought to understand the distinction between gentlemen who receive large fees as legal advisers and Members of Parliament. The people of India were generally a corrupt people, and thought it no offence to accept what we should call bribes, but which they regarded as absolutely necessary to expedite all business. Those Natives of India who came to this country with grievances to complain of would not fail to tell their countrymen that the services of Members of that House could be obtained for money, and that opinion would prevail as long as the present practice continued. The Natives of India would not make any distinction between the legal and the non-professional Members of that House, or between one Member and another, but would believe that every Member could be bought if they could only pay his price. Every one had heard stones of presents made of shawls and jewels, not only to Members, but to individuals of the fairer sex who might be supposed to have influence over Members of that House. Those stories went to India, and the result was, that the wealthy Natives believed that Parliament was entirely a venal body, and every Member willing to be bought. Some means should be adopted whereby it should be declared that it was not honourable or proper for any gentleman of the long robe, a Mebmer of that House, to support in that House a cause on which he had received a legal retainer, especially in cases coming from India. If that could be done by Resolution or by a plain expression of the opinion of the House, he thought it would redound alike to the credit of Parliament and the good government of India, by removing the false impression on the subject which prevailed there.


said, he did not agree with those who advised the hon. Member for Tavistock to withdraw his Motion, and he thought the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. FitzGerald) justified his opposition to that course, for he showed that, not only was there a general law against the acceptance of pecuniary rewards by Members, but that the Resolutions to that effect had been renewed from time to time. That being so, there could be no objection to a renewal of the Resolution at the present time. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) had spoken of the effect which the Resolution would have upon a generally corrupt people like the Hindoos; but he (Mr. Fox) thought of the effect which it would have upon a people who were not generally corrupt—the people of this country, who would not wish to regard that House as a venal body; and he thought that a decided expression of opinion would tend to impress them with confidence. It was the apology for the great Lord Bacon that, although he had sold justice, yet he had never sold injustice. That was a very dangerous apology, which it required a very strong mind to observe. It involved a double danger—a danger to the individual who sold and to him who bought. There was the double danger of the effect upon the individual's conscience and also of inducing others holding different opinions to shape their views upon a belief in his sincerity. Much of the present discussion had turned upon the conduct of gentlemen of the long robe, and he did not intend to offer an apology for any Member having a pecuniary interest in any cause advocating that cause as a Member of Parliament; but he would remark there were gentlemen, not lawyers, who had interests in matters which came before the Mouse, railways and other schemes, which they advocated, notwithstanding the advantages which success would confer upon them. The true principle was for every man to divest himself of every consideration save that of the public good. Was there nothing in the connection between constituencies and their representatives as to obtaining places which was to the purpose in this discussion? Was there not subserviency on the one hand and corruption on the other? If a line was to be drawn it should be drawn as widely as possible to include all such cases. He would go the length of making it a misdemeanour for any legislator not connected with the Executive Government to interfere in making any public appointment whatever. Getting a place for one of his constituents might be as much a money matter on the part of a Member of that House as giving a fee to a member of the long robe would be. They were looking forward to the time when they expected to effect a considerable change in the constitution of that House, and he trusted they would be able to do away with influences that were now operating injuriously, both in the way of bribery and intimidation. Looking to that time, they should do all they could to keep up among the people a pure spirit of patriotism; and by sanctioning such a Resolution as that before the House they would show that the cause of purity and patriotism was not dead among themselves.


thought the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fox) had not shown his usual clearness of perception in the view he had taken of this matter. He argued that, because they had adopted Resolutions on this subject in past times, therefore they ought to pass another now. But he should recollect that all these Resolutions were passed after some one had been found guilty; whereas he proposed to pass a Resolution after an inquiry had taken place, and the Member whose conduct had been inquired into had been fully acquitted. He was a member of the Committee which sat upon that gentleman's case; and his understanding was, that when they went into Committee, it was not because there was no rule on the subject, but because there was a rule; and the object of the Committee was to ascertain whether the Member had broken that rule. Before they took any evidence, the right hon. Baronet who was the Chairman of the Committee went through a number of cases that had previously occurred, and read the Resolution of the House upon each of them, and he was sure there was no member of the Committee who was at all at a loss to discover what was the rule of Parliament with regard to these questions. At the conclusion of the proceedings there was some discussion as to whether any recommendation should be made to the House to make the rule more clear and more stringent; but it was the unanimous opinion of the Committee that no good result would flow from any such course. It was his own distinct opinion that the rule was perfectly clear to every man's mind and conscience, and that, therefore, no Resolution was required. With regard to the Resolution now proposed, every Member must see—whatever his opinion was as to the desirableness of doing something—that this was not the proposition which the House ought to pass; because those cases to which the hon. Member for Oldham had referred, in which Members were interested very remotely, would come under the language of the Resolution. He was quite sure that, with these words, unless they allowed them to become obsolete, as they would do to-morrow, they would be laying traps for themselves, without in the slightest degree adding to the security for the honourable performance of their duty. One of the purest, highest names ever placed on the muster roll of Parliament was that of Andrew Marvel, yet he received a regular salary for his services in the performance of his Parliamentary duties. And when that change took place, to which the hon. Member for Oldham referred, when, probably, they might get rid of the property qualification, and obtain a more extended suffrage, they might possibly have some Members of that House who were not men of property— not, to use a professional phrase, men of station—but men of character and intellect, belonging to an order of society that had not been directly represented there hitherto. When such men got into the House, was it not likely—would it not be a thing to be commended and admired— that the constituencies should undertake to furnish them with salaries of £200, £300, or £500 a year, that they might be able to subsist and attend to their duties in Parliament? He should be very glad to see such a case. It would show them that the constituencies were improving, as at present the burden lay in the other direction. But if such a Member were in that House, he would violate this Resolution in the form in which it now stood. The discussion had turned a good deal on the case of lawyers. It was not necessary for him, or any man not a lawyer, to defend them; but, if the Resolution was intended only for lawyers, let it plainly say so. Lot them have a net with meshes made for them alone, and not one which would involve Members of every class. He would gay, generally, that unless they had good grounds for new legislation, they should not legislate. Unless they had some clear and specific ground for new legislation, they should not pass resolutions of this kind. There was a tendency to do too much. The case before them was one in which the Member was not guilty of the accusation brought against him. The sum of money he had undertaken to receive had no reference to Parliamentary proceedings, but had reference strictly to an engagement to go to India, leaving, as he did, a lucrative employment at home. He believed that contract would be fulfilled, and that, at the end of the present Session, the Gentleman would probably go to India, to transact the business he had taken in hand. There was no case made out by the evidence; the Gentleman charged was fully acquitted, and no member of the Committee believed him, in the slightest degree, guilty. Therefore, there was no cause for new legislation or new resolutions on this subject. The public did not believe that Members of Parliament were corrupt, in the sense in which this Resolution implied they were. They knew that, in the fights of parties, men sometimes did things that, in their cool hours, they could not justify; but that was not the sort of thing referred to in the Resolution. He had not the slightest fear that the country would judge any of them as if they were in fear of their reputations. He would rather stand on their character and honour, which the country knew, than endeavour to set themselves up for something purer than they had been heretofore, by passing a Resolution like this. If the House divided, he should certainly vote against the Resolution of the hon. Baronet.


I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I think if it were intended to impeach the conduct of the Member for Youghal on the ground of any evidence taken before the Committee held for the purpose of inquiring into the matters in question, that there ought to have been a specific Motion made for the purpose. I think, therefore, we can only make use of that Committee and the proceedings before it to this extent—as probably inducing the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Trelawny) to bring forward the Motion; and if he has done so with the view of either con- firming an old custom of Parliament, or of introducing a new custom, he ought distinctly to make out to the House which of those two propositions he wishes to establish. If it he that he wishes to pledge the House to this Resolution as the introduction of a new rule, I shall beg leave to take issue with him on that point, and say that no new rule is necessary on the subject. If he wishes, by this Resolution, to confirm an old rule, I say that it is much better the old rule of Parliament should be left in the breast of the House, than that any attempt should be made to tie it up by the introduction of any new words. And I am perfectly confident that if you do attempt to tie up (for such I will presently show you will be the effect of these new words) the known rules and usages of Parliament, you will hamper yourself in a manner that you little imagine; and the very Resolution you are proposing to apply to one object you will find applies to objects to which you did not intend it to be directed, and that you will not be able to apply it to the objects which were the subject matter of your original intention. I do not quite agree with the limited view that my noble Friend the Member for the East Riding (Lord Hotham) took of this question. He discussed it as if it related solely to the gentlemen of the long robe—to those who are engaged in professional pursuits connected with the law. The rules of Parliament on this question are applicable to all Members— certain rules are applicable to all Members, and certain rules are applicable to Members of the legal profession. Those rules are very old. Those applicable to the legal profession are as old as the year 1666, and their application is perfectly well known. No Member belonging to the legal profession can undertake any business pending in Parliament, or which is likely to be pending in Parliament, and with a view to Parliamentary proceedings, without violating the known rules of the House. So much is this the case that we very well know, in one instance, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) asked permission of the House to conduct a matter in the Upper House. He was allowed to do so because it was a public Bill. I allude to the Sudbury Disfranchisement Bill. But we know that another Member made a similar application, and the House refused to sanction such a proceeding. But why? The distinction laid down by the Speaker was this: that a Member of this House, being a barrister, may have the permission to conduct business in the Upper House of Parliament accorded to him if it relate to a public Bill, but he cannot have that permission if it relate to a private Bill. The application in the second instance to which I alluded, had reference to a private Bill, and therefore it was refused. Then, there was another rule distinctly laid down with reference to Parliamentary agents, and in that instance it was particularly applied to Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey. It was decided that he was not entitled to transact any business as a Parliamentary agent with reference to matters proceeding in Parliament, he being the partner of a person who was conducting that business. If, therefore, you want to apply the rules of this House to professional men for the purpose of preventing them from undertaking any business which has any reference to Parliamentary proceedings, you see you have the power already, by existing rules of this House to prevent them from doing so. And if you ascertain that, contrary to existing rules, any gentleman has attempted to transact such business, then he is amenable to this House, and he may be reprimanded, be may be censured, or— as in some instances it has been done—he may be expelled from this House. Therefore, as far as relates to that part of the question, as to the consideration of the duties of Members of the legal profession, I say, with confidence, that it is not necessary for you to lay down any new rules. And I say, further, that if you intend to apply any new rule, you may desire to introduce to any Member of the long robe, you ought specifically to have mentioned it in your Resolution. I now come to the greater question—namely, whether Members of this House, belonging to the legal profession or not, are, or are not, bound by the rules of Parliament to refrain from the acceptance of any reward of any sort or kind which can corrupt the influence to be exercised on their duties in Parliament. I say that the rule of Parliament has been invariably against it, and that there has been no exception to this rule from the oldest times down to the present moment. The very instance which has been referred to, of 1695, brings us back to the most remarkable period of our history. In that year, remember, it was proved to the House that certain Members—the Speaker included—had received rewards, in the shape of pecuniary bums, advanced to them for the conduct of what was called the City of London Orphan Bill; the House instantly took notice of the matter—expelled the Speaker, Sir John Trevor—yes, expelled the Speaker for that conduct; and he, I am sorry to say, was a gentleman of the long robe. I only mention that because of what fell from the hon. Member opposite — they expelled the Speaker and Mr. Hungerford, the Chairman of the Committee, and reprimanded Mr. Guy. That was the conduct pursued by Parliament with reference to the City of London Orphan Bill. But what was its conduct with reference to the Best India Company's charter? No less a sum than £100,000 was ascertained to have been distributed by the East India Company for the purpose of procuring a renewal of their charter, and large portions of that sum of money had come into the hands of some Members of the House. How did the House deal with that question? Did the House say it wanted a Resolution passed specially to deal with it? No, the House simply used its powers—singled out the particular cases, censured one, expelled another, and directed the impeachment of a third—the Duke of Leeds. It then passed the Resolution of 1695, which was not intended to apply, and does not apply to Members of the House, but which was intended to reach those beyond the House. That is the meaning of the distinction drawn between "the offer of the money" and "the acceptance of the money." The Resolution was intended to apply to the offer that was made by gentlemen outside the House to Members of Parliament. The House evidently thought that it had no necessity for laying down any Resolution as to the acceptance of money by its Members, because, by its inherent power and authority it could deal with such Members, and effectually mark its sense of such offences. That being so, I put it to the hon. Member who has brought forward this question, whether the Resolution now proposed is at all necessary? For confirming those rules that exist it is clearly not necessary, for your own Resolution was only made in pursuance of a larger and greater power which is inherent in this House. As the introduction of a new rule, it should not be passed, because it will hamper and fetter this House in the exercise of its discretion on future occasions, when particular cases of bribery and corruption may be brought under its notice. No words can so well specify what this House intends to do, when any undue influence is exercised on its Members, as those already in existence; and no power can be given to it superior to that which the House can itself exercise by its own inherent authority of taking notice of any particular case which is brought before it, dealing with that case according to its merits, and refusing to be hampered by any words which possibly, if introduced, may hereafter raise questions as to whether the case before them is brought within those words or not. For these reasons, entertaining a strong opinion that every species of corrupt influence on the conduct of Members of this House, fettering their judgment and freedom of opinion in the smallest degree, ought to be condemned at once, and believing that it will be condemned quite as effectually and much more readily under those powers which the House itself possesses than by introducing any new Resolution—which may or may not meet particular cases when they are hereafter brought forward— I say it is safer for the House to proceed upon its own known laws and usages than to introduce a new Resolution, which in one sense may be considered as too limited and in another sense much too extended: too limited if it does not meet every case of corrupt influence which may be brought under your notice—too extended, if it attempts, as it does in these words, to impugn the conduct of Members who have received testimonials publicly and honourably. Many such cases can be mentioned that have occurred within our own memories, and one especially. It happens, undoubtedly, in the instance I refer to, that it was given by the vote of this House, and not by his constituency, or rather perhaps that the country gave it to him through this House. But we do know that not even a twelvemonth has passed over our heads since one gentleman of this House was presented with a testimonial by his constituency. Not many years have passed over our heads since another gentleman, not now, but then, a Member, received a testimonial for his great exertions in a great cause. I think I may include honourable testimonials of that description which gentlemen may receive as instances which would render such words as those proposed too extensive. If you introduce words too extended in your Resolution, instead of stopping corruption, as you intend to do, you are much more likely to stop the honourable exertions of mankind. For all these reasons, I think that the hon. Member will do well not to press his Resolution. I think the declaration of opinion that he has heard from all sides of the House, of an intention to put down any reward which is corrupt in its character, must fully answer his purpose—must maintain the dignity and authority of this House in the country, and will not endanger the existing rules, or prevent their application wherever they may be found to be requisite.


I think that in a matter which concerns the honour of Members of this House, nothing is more important than that the rules laid down should be clear and precise. Anything like a vague declaration of the impropriety of certain conduct, while it is a mere trap for tender consciences, is no restraint upon those of a different description. The present law of Parliament, which is known and understood, appears to me to be sufficient for the purposes for which it has been established; and I think the Resolution now proposed is objectionable on account of the vagueness of the terms in which it is couched. If I had entertained no doubt upon that point before, the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fox), opened a view which would have induced me to pause, because, if the Resolution is to apply in the extensive manner contemplated in that speech, there is hardly a function which Members of this House could perform in regard to matters connected with their constituents which might not render them in some degree subject to censure. Therefore, holding as high as any one can, the necessity of maintaining the honour of Members free from any imputation of corruption, I am disposed to think that the present regulation, with the discretion which the House must always possess of judging of the conduct of its Members, when that conduct comes before them, affords a sufficient security for the integrity of Members; whilst there would be great danger in the vagueness of the Resolution now proposed. I think the appeal made to my hon. Friend not to press the Motion to a division is, an appeal which he will exercise a wise discretion in acceding to.

Sir JOHN TRELAWNY, in reply, denied that his Resolution would limit the operation of the order of the House on this subject. The resolution passed in 1695 was limited to the offer of rewards to Members of Parliament, but his Resolution would go further, for it would prohibit the acceptance of them; but it did not apply to tes- timonials to Members for past services. He regretted that his hon. Friend below him had referred to the inquiry into the charge preferred against Mr. Butt. His hon. Friend had said that the Resolution of the select Committee was a distinct acquittal; but in his (Sir J. Trelawny's) opinion it simply affirmed that the statements of the petition had not been proved to the satisfaction of the Committee; but he contended that the evidence amply sustained the position he had taken in his opening statement. He, at the same time, wished it to be understood that he did not express any opinion on the charge against Mr. Butt. Neither malice nor ostentation had induced him to bring forward this subject. His simple object was to suggest the desirableness of taking some step with the view of preventing an erroneous impression being made in the public mind by the result of the inquiry into Mr. Butt's case. As it appeared to be the general wish, of the House that his Motion should be withdrawn, he had no objection to that course.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.